03
Oct
08

Smirking Incompetents and Other Scary Things

I was not sure if I should even watch because I’m already on three meds for my blood pressure, but I caved and tuned in. I had seen clips from her gubernatorial debates in 2006 so expected she would perform well, but that is exactly the point–it’s a performance and a narrow, rigid one at that. I was extremely put off by the self-satisfied smirk that she wore nearly all night.  It reminded me of the current smirking incompetent in the White House.

Supreme confidence not backed by demonstrable knowledge or ability is not a sign of great leadership.  It is a sign of mental illness.
Because of my interest in psychology and specifically in personality disorders, I’m always looking for “tells.”  A professor once told me that people will tell you all about themselves if you will only listen.  We tend to excuse and rationalize traits that are clearly out of the norm and, in so doing, miss a lot of important information. There were a couple of “tells” with Palin last night, but were we listening? The first one was her bizarre assertion about the constitutional role of the vice president, insisting that the constitution provides flexibility about that role (btw, aren’t good conservatives strict constructionists or is that only when it suits them?), which it absolutely does not. She apparently supports Cheney’s notion of a unitary executive that merges with part of the legislative branch, effectively neutering one branch of the checks and balances system our founding fathers so meticulously set up.  There are two (actually three) explanations for this: Based on her tenure as mayor and governor in Alaska, she has demonstrated a disregard for constraints of the office and clearly believes the executive should be able to do whatever they want, regardless of the laws. It could be that she truly thinks the VP’s office should have more power over the legislative branch. The second possible explanation for her assertion about expanded VP powers, which I think is unfortunately pretty likely, is that she simply does not understand the constitutional role of the vice president, so she is a blank slate for Rove’s handlers to brainwash with their destructive ideology. The third option is a sinister merging of both–she believes in unfettered executive power and is not all that concerned about what the constitution actually says. I tend to think she represents the third option, a situation made more dangerous by the fact that she is a classic “unconscious incompetent,” totally unaware  of and unconcerned by her lack of actual ability.

The second “tell” came after Joe Biden choked up about his family tragedy.  Anyone who has watched him over the years knows that this continues to be raw pain for him, even 35 years later. I was stunned that Palin launched directly into a her talking points after this episode, not even acknowledging his loss or his pain. After the Republican convention when the news about her pregnant teenage daughter was revealed, I tried to put myself in her shoes as a mother and wondered if I would have (even could have) subjected a teenager to the media circus.  It was clear from the fact that they tried to hide her pregnancy (using another child as a tummy shield) that Palin must have been aware of the media frenzy and ridicule that would result from this news.  My initial thought was that it was cold beyond measure for a mother to be more concerned about her place in history than her children’s welfare.  However, I was caught up in the meme of double standards and unfair scrutiny, so thought that maybe I was just being too harsh.  I don’t think so now.  I think this woman truly lacks empathy. Her narcissistic goals steamroll every other normal human emotion and it was evident in her treatment of her daughter and her response to Joe Biden.  She moved directly to HER talking points, apparently unable to acknowledge, or even recognize, that someone else had pain.

So, here’s my totally non-professional pop psychology assessment: She is a woman with tremendous charisma, a clear desire for power and severely impaired empathy. To me, that spells a personality disorder and probably one on the narcissistic, borderline, anti-social personality continuum. Add to that her apparent lack of insight about her actual level of ability and we are in big trouble if this woman gets elected. Cheney might be more pathological, but he is less likable.  She will have the broad support of an adoring public while she sticks the knife in their backs.

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